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Worker attacked by tiger at Florida zoo could face charges, officials say

The worker was not authorized to be where he was and stuck his arm into the tiger’s enclosure before the attack at the Naples Zoo, officials said.
/ Source: NBC News

A cleaning worker at a Florida zoo who was attacked by a tiger after putting his arm into its enclosure could be criminally charged, authorities said Thursday.

A Collier County sheriff’s deputy fatally shot the tiger at the Naples Zoo on Wednesday evening after it would not release the man’s arm from its mouth.

The sheriff’s office said in a statement that an investigation would determine whether charges would be filed against the injured worker, but it did not say what the charges could be.

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk defended the decision of his deputy to fatally shoot the the 8-year-old Malayan tiger named Eko, which officials have said had the 26-year-old man’s arm in its mouth and would not let go. 

Body camera video released Thursday shows a deputy asking if a tranquilizer is available and being told no, and unsuccessful efforts to distract the animal before the officer fires.

“Our deputy did everything he could do in that situation and he ultimately made the only possible decision he could in order to save this man’s life,” Rambosk said in a statement.

The man was flown to hospital in serious condition Wednesday. An updated condition was not available for him Thursday. 

Naples Zoo marketing director Courtney Jolly said that that when the zoo is open there is a team present that includes a shooter and lead darter, but the zoo was not open when the attack occurred.

The zoo on its website also said it supports the decision to shoot Eko, and that “resolving this situation with a tranquilizer dart would not have been appropriate given the immediate crisis.”

The man worked for a cleaning company responsible for restrooms and a gift shop and was not authorized to be where he was, officials have said.

He breached one barrier and stuck his arm through the fence of the tiger’s enclosure and the tiger grabbed it, the sheriff’s office said. 

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